BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: Now, a profile of an American army chaplain in Iraq ministering to troops near Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown. How does he think the mission is going? What do his troops say about the insurgency?
Captain Joseph Angotti is a 40-year-old Catholic priest who was home recently on leave in Evanston, Illinois. He spoke of his admiration for the troops he serves and of their dedication to their difficult task.
Chaplain JOSEPH ANGOTTI (Captain, U.S. Army): They're good people to minister to because they sacrifice so much. They are very committed to what their goal is, what they are told their mission is. And they are ready to fulfill what they are asked to do.
ABERNETHY: But that mission, says the chaplain, is dangerous and frustrating.
Chaplain ANGOTTI: I have dealt with soldiers who have lost comrades. And there is a lot of grief and there is a lot of pain when things happen. And they, they very often want to pray. They want a sense that God has not abandoned them, that God is in their midst, and that's really what a chaplain is there to do, is to be a presence to them in those times.
ABERNETHY: How is the troops' morale?
Chaplain ANGOTTI: Morale is fairly good. The circumstances they are in are difficult. Some of them feel like they are a gerbil on a wheel. When you are putting a lot of effort and work into something, you want to see things get better. And our soldiers right now do not have the blessing of seeing things get better. That can always change, but in the time we've been stationed in Iraq they have not gotten better.
ABERNETHY: And what do you tell them?
Chaplain ANGOTTI: I tell them that it is important not to despair. It is important to keep hope. I believe very strongly that prayer is important, that we have to pray, and that ultimately we are not in control of our destiny. Being in Iraq is a good place to learn how little control anybody really has. When soldiers ask me for Scripture, I find myself recommending the Book of Job quite a lot.
ABERNETHY: Angotti lives in heavily sandbagged quarters in one of the 1st Infantry Division's forward operating bases. Behind the barbed-wire perimeter is the Tigris River, and nearby is one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces. I asked the chaplain how the Iraq situation has changed in the eight months he has been there.
Chaplain ANGOTTI: I think that what people are hearing, and our president has said, there was a miscalculation in some of what has transpired. And as far as what I see, I would have to agree with the president on that particular point.
Chaplain ANGOTTI: The main miscalculation was the emergence of an insurgency, and apparently nobody thought that was going to happen. I am surprised, as everyone else is, at the magnitude of the insurgency and the Islamic fundamentalism that is emerging that wasn't there before. There is some bitterness about that, that there is an insurgency and that they are having to deal with it.